Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 16 -- Spent the morning with Leo

This morning, Sunday, I was sleeping so hard, I missed Leo's calls to my iPhone, which I always have near my pillow. Then, at 6 am, he called on the house phone to wake me. We only had a short conversation because he was waiting for a student to arrive. There was a beautiful sunrise here so I emailed Leo its picture, which I took from our bed.

Last week, I sent this sunrise to Leo. The picture was taken by our friend Paola in Laguna Beach.

Within moments after emailing the photo, my iPhone rang.  Leo was using his Skype account along with his web camera. Instead of hearing just his voice, I saw a smiling Leo on the iPhone's screen! He looked fabulous. His coloring was good. His eyes were sparkling and I watched him move about the room, his back brace in place. Thank goodness he was not in extreme pain today. Leo never knows from one hour to the next, to what degree his back will hurt. The bone marrow cancer seems to be under control but the damage the cancer did to his back is still healing, painfully.

Skype's video and sound was so crisp and clear.  I hadn't seen him since November. What a wonderful wonderful surprise. Thank you thank you thank you Leo!

We talked until the student arrived. Leo took off his headset but left the Skype connection live. It was so fantastic! I stayed on the line for over 3 hours. The student was just out of sight range, but I could hear their conversation and tried to understand as much as I could.

Before Leo became home-bound two years ago, he always had a web camera installed in his office, so I could look in anytime. At the university, he also installed an outdoor webcam which allowed me to see Ponte Vecchio, the Arno River, nearby traffic and the weather. He gave me the ability to move the camera, using my computer. Nearly everyday, I watched Leo and looked outside his window. He never felt too far away with this daily contact.

Today, when the student left, Leo returned to his desk and I could see in his eyes, he knew I was still on-line. He put on his head-set but did not talk. He was not alone in the house. Since he wanted to stay with me, I pulled out yesterday's Italian lesson from the ICC and began to talk. I could see his face relax. Just as I am comforted by the sound of his voice, my not so perfect Italian soothes him.

Michele had asked us five questions, as he usually does on the first day of class. The varying answers always start a lively discussion.

We each have different perceptions of cultures, using our own cultural yardstick to make these judgements.

Americans may think of Italians as being lazy because Italians know how to take breaks throughout the day. I have found Italians to be hard working perfectionists. Italians admire the American skill of time management and organization. The American work ethic makes Americans stressed and we often work right though the day without a break.

I told Leo how the discussions had gone in class. I watched his face as he showed me his opinions. When it was time to go, he waved bye. He wrote me later that he slept soundly and comfortably after our time together.

Love endures and finds a way, even though difficult times.


Secondo te: (In your opinion):

Gli italiani sono orgogliosi di essere italiani?
What percentage of Italians are proud to be Italian?

Quali sono i simboli piu prestigiosi del made in Italy?
What are the most prestigious symbols of "Made in Italy"

Quali sono gli italiani piu importanti di tutti i tempi?
Who are the most important Italians of all time?

Quali sono le principali qualita' degli italiani?
What are the principal qualities of Italians?

Quali sono i principali difetti?
What are the principal defects of Italians?

Quali sono le principali qualita' degli americani?
What are the principal qualities of Americans?

Quali sono i principali difetti?
What are the principal defects of Americans?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

January 15 -- Italian classes have begun.

Italian class started today at the Italian Cultural Institute near UCLA. I only have one class. I'd love to take two classes concurrently on Saturday, but unfortunately my budget won't allow it. The cost is $350 for 10 weeks of two hour lessons. Class size is 5-6 participants.  Each attendee arrives with varying skill levels. English is rarely spoken.

These lessons are my weekly treat to myself. My conversation class is with Michele, a handsome guy in his 30s. This is my fourth class with him. It was difficult to understand him at first, but now his Roman accent feels just fine to me. We don't specifically study grammar rules, but Michele gently corrects when necessary.

My speaking continues to lag behind my comprehension and reading skills. I read daily for a least one hour and I'm really enjoying my books on tape which I bought in Firenze in November.  I am reading along with the audio book and I'm self-correcting my accent as often as I can.

I was disappointed today when Michele said this class will not be reading a novel. During the first and second classes, we read contemporary novels by Fabio Volo, who is also an Italian actor. Last fall, a friend of Michele's allowed us to read his 150 page screenplay, which was based on the true WWII love story of his parents.

I love a challenge. I remember opening Un posto nel mondo (Fabio Volo, 2006) and thinking it was too early for me to graduate from reading children's books to adult material. But the story captured my interest. The more I read, the better my comprehension became. Then, I fell in love with Fabio Volo and I bought all his books at Edison Libreria in Firenze.

When Michele assigned Il giorno in più (Fabio Volo, 2007), I eagerly devoured it. It was so good, I had to read the last chapter right away to make sure it had a happy ending. Michele made me promise not to repeat THAT for the screen play.

When I first told Leo I was reading the works of Fabio Volo, he was not impressed for a second. He told me Fabio Volo was (only) a television personality and an actor, but certainly not a writer to be taken seriously. Sometimes Leo is so hard headed. But he always listens to me attentively and then gives his facts-based opinion. Loving Leo as I do, I gifted him Il giorno in più in spite of his preconceived prejudice and to his surprise, he really enjoyed it.

So, the reason we're not reading a novel in Michele's class this session? Apparently I was the only one who read the reading assignments. Those students don't know what they missed.

"Il giorno in più by Fabio Volo is one of Italy's most recent best selling novels. The novel is light-hearted, funny, moving, and it makes for a change from some of the "heavier" writing that has come out of Italy the past year"

Romanzi di Fabio Volo  (Books by Fabio Volo)

Esco a fare due passi (2001)
È una vita che ti aspetto (2003)
Un posto nel mondo (2006)
Il giorno in più (2007)
Il tempo che vorrei (2009)

Films with Fabio Volo

Casomai (2002), regia di Alessandro D'Alatri
Playgirl (2002), regia di Fabio Tagliavia - Cortometraggio

La febbre (2005), regia di Alessandro D'Alatri
Manuale d'amore 2 - Capitoli successivi (2007), regia di Giovanni Veronesi
Uno su due (2007), regia di Eugenio Cappuccio
Bianco e nero (2008), regia di Cristina Comencini
Matrimoni e altri disastri (2010), regia di Nina Di Majo
Figli delle stelle (2010), regia di Lucio Pellegrini
Niente Paura (2010), regia di Piergiorgio Gay
Il giorno in piu' (2011), regia di Massimo Venier

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What is Love?

I keep asking myself this question.  What is love?  I understand the love a mother has for her children.  This love should be just enough to guide without smothering the spark that makes us individual.  Encouragement with some guidance.  Acceptance but tempered with lessons of right and wrong. 

Leo has been feeling terrible back pain this week.  So bad, that he was unable to call me.  When he did call, I did what I always do:  talk directly.  He seems to love it.  I asked him, "Are you walking?"  No direct answer.  I asked if he had been doing the exercises the physical therapist had assigned him.  Excuses.  Finally I re-asked, saying "Tell me only yes or no!"  "Oh!" he said..."it's so American, this yes or no, black or white."  I tried again.  "Have you or have you not been walking?"  No.  And the exercises? "No, I was afraid to do them." But Leo, did your doctor say it was ok to do them? "Yes." 

Well,  I said:  "Tu sei un stupido!!"  And he laughed, sounding better by the minute.  Sounding, less tense.  I told him, I've noticed a pattern:  Chemo, sleepiness, terrible back pain a few weeks later.  Leo, I think your back muscles have been weakened by inactivity...

I am feeling a bit of anger this week as I try to understand these last 12 years.  It feels so un-natural to be separated.

I wrote Leo an email last night.  Leo, sweetheart, if your back muscles are not strong, your back does not have the support it needs.  It's like driving your car on tires which have no air in them.  Please make up a star chart, like we do here for children, when they have daily tasks. Do the task, get a star.  The chart shows visible progress and a little award follows.  I'm not a doctor, but your medico did tell you to walk and exercise...

Leo wrote back to me this morning.  So now I know the real truth.  He has not done his exercises for 4 months.  Nor has he been walking.  Excuses.  Weather, chemo, sleepiness. The excuses go on and on.

Leo has just written, that he has taken his walker and walked outside for one hour.  Meno male! Thank goodness.  I texted him "Bravo!"

If there is love in his house, why is he not walking, exercising and laughing?

And regarding love, this should include self-love too.  Some element is missing in Leo's house.

I am not a part of Leo's daily routine now.  It hurts me to not be a part of his day.  Our phone calls have become less and less frequent.  The text messages he says are too expensive. Again, excuses.  Excuses only serve to cover-over underlying issues.

I guess I'm feeling more... acceptance with his excuses.  Leo did not choose me to stay with me and he never will. I realize now he made his choice years ago and I was in the wrong to hope that love would win over culture.

Leo and I have studied the Italian immigrants who came to California in the Gold Rush days. Leo has written several books on the topic. The pioneers who left their homelands did so with great courage. Some came in couples.  Others came alone, saved money and sent for wives, girlfriends or family years later. Many brought a prized possession with them:  a book written by Dante, seeds, saplings or a few grape cuttings.

Some pioneers though, left their families and culture behind and never looked back. They cut their ties totally and disappeared into time.   Now I believe they did so because it was easier. It was final.  There was no discussion, pleading letters or follow-up knowledge of failure or success. It was a disappearance which could not be altered.

Culture is a force I never really thought about until I began to travel.  We're all surrounded by it and it binds us to our beliefs. I recall my history lessons and it seems the world has always been about the clash or blending of cultures. Romans loved the Etruscans and absorbed them into their culture around 500 BC.  In 1540, Catherine de Medici, daughter of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, married Henry II of France and later became his Queen.  Catherine brought her Italian cooks with her and French cuisine was born.

I met my friend Barbara in Italian class, where we were faithful students for two years.  She is of Japanese heritage and married to an Italian-American.  They have beautiful daughters, who themselves have choosen boyfriends of European cultures.  I admire this family for their ability to thrive.  They have pride in their heritage, yet they have wings to carry them into other cultures.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year - Buon Anno!

Catching up on adding pictures to November - December.

Leo has written me two beautiful poems.  Translations to follow.